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6 Top Health Threats to Men

What puts a man’s health at risk as he gets older?
By
WebMD Feature

More boys than girls are born every year in the U.S. But any lead in health men start with vanishes with the first dirty diaper.

From infancy to old age, women are simply healthier than men. Out of the 15 leading causes of death, men lead women in all of them except Alzheimer's disease, which many men don't live long enough to develop. Although the gender gap is closing, men still die five years earlier than their wives, on average.

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While the reasons are partly biological, men's approach to their health plays a role too, experts tell WebMD.

"Men put their health last," says Demetrius Porche, DNS, RN, editor in chief of the American Journal of Men's Health. "Most men's thinking is, if they can live up to their roles in society, then they're healthy."

Men go to the doctor less than women and are more likely to have a serious condition when they do go, research shows. "As long as they're working and feeling productive, most men aren't considering the risks to their health," says Porche.

But even if you're feeling healthy, a little planning can help you stay that way. The top threats to men's health aren't secrets: they're known, common, and often preventable. WebMD consulted the experts to bring you this list of the top health threats to men, and how to avoid them.

Cardiovascular Disease: The Leading Men's Health Threat

They call it atherosclerosis, meaning "hardening of the arteries." But it could as easily be from the Latin for "a man's worst enemy."

"Heart disease and stroke are the first and second leading causes of death worldwide, in both men and women," says Darwin Labarthe, MD, MPH, PhD, director of the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the CDC. "It's a huge global public health problem, and in the U.S. we have some of the highest rates."

In cardiovascular disease, cholesterol plaques gradually block the arteries in the heart and brain. If a plaque becomes unstable, a blood clot forms, blocking the artery and causing a heart attack or stroke.

One in five men and women will die from cardiovascular disease, according to Labarthe. For unclear reasons, though, men's arteries develop atherosclerosis earlier than women's. "Men's average age for death from cardiovascular disease is under 65," he says; women catch up about six years later.

Even in adolescence, girls' arteries look healthier than boys'. Experts believe women's naturally higher levels of good cholesterol (HDL) are partly responsible. Men have to work harder to reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke:

  • Get your cholesterol checked, beginning at age 25 and every five years.
  • Control your blood pressure and cholesterol, if they're high.
  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Increase your physical activity level to 30 minutes per day, most days of the week.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables and less saturated or trans fats.

"There's a saying that 'children should know their grandparents,'" says Labarthe. "This is fatal or disabling condition that causes lost family time and working time. But a large number of these events are preventable."

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